January 17 (1978, 1979, 2003, 2004)
Visit to Green Valley

Fog-filled North Fork canyon, January 17, 2004
1/17/78 ~ dense fog screens most of the canyon from view. rain is now only intermittent, and the sky is brighter than i've seen it for days. another storm is expected tonight. i must get out and do something today ~ i've been inside so much lately.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/17/79   day after day of rain, but only .75" in the gauge, and none falling at the moment ~ fog plays in the canyon and the river's roar has subsided. 18.5 inches since the 8th. and the snow line was over 7000' for most of that, although it dropped to 6000' yesterday.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 08:40:10 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails Email Group
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Visit to Green Valley

Hi all,

Yesterday my son Greg [age 9] played hooky from school and joined Ron Gould, Catherine O'Riley, and me for a visit to Green Valley. We started down the trail around ten in the morning. The day was bright and clear and warm.

Ron Gould (playing Dueling Photographers with Russ),
Greg Towle, and Catherine O'Riley.
Ron Gould's opposite viewpoint. (Click photos to enlarge.)
Green Valley is one of the fabled old mining camps of Placer County; 2000 people are said to have lived there in 1851 and 1852, and much mining persisted through the rest of the 19th century, having mainly to do with the unusual Ice Age sediments there. Green Valley was the first place I ever saw hydraulic mines in Pleistocene gravels. When I first realized this, in 1976, it seemed wondrous strange. Now I realize it is not quite so rare, and may even be common in other areas, for instance, up on the Klamath River.

We followed the old mule trail down [labeled Green Valley Trail off Moody Ridge Rd. in map below] by which the miners were supplied, at first from Illinoistown, later from Dutch Flat. At around 2650' in elevation we left our packs by the trail and struck off into Ginseng Ravine to visit the Miner's Cave, in a low cliff of serpentine agglomerate. Then another round of walking took us past the fork, where the East and West trails diverge; we took the East Trail, and dropped our packs once again, at the ditch of the Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine. This ditch took from the North Fork American, about a mile upstream from Euchre Bar, and crossed the river on a high flume, in the gorge between Green Valley on the west, and Euchre Bar on the east. We explored west along the ditch, crossing Ginseng Ravine, where at that point the ditch becomes a part of the Low West Trail. We entered the edge of the sunny forested flats where the Low West and High West trails converge, gazed around a little, and then returned to the East Trail.

Grayscale version of the Green Valley Trails map made by Russell Towle, January 2008.
Click to enlarge.
"Pool of the White Rocks," east end of Green Valley
Dropping past the High East Trail and Joe Steiner's grave, and then past the giant masses of rhododendron in the wet meadow, we paused briefly at the hotel site and then followed the Low East Trail to the Pool of the White Rocks. We had lunch there, beside the clear cold river. Two ducks beat past us, low to the water, and were followed a minute or two later by three kayakers, who waved a cheerful hello.

After lunch we continued east on Low East Trail, and visited the top of the High White Rock, a very curious mass of quartzose rock embedded squarely within the serpentine of the Melones Fault zone. It crops out on both sides of the river, and on its east side, interfingers with masses of serpentine. It has a wonderful view. As we gazed around, a Bald Eagle soared into view, and we watched it disappear around a bend in the river to the west.

Continuing east, we visited an old marijuana grower's camp with an abundance of garbage scattered on steep slopes below the camp. Then the trail becomes more tenuous and we soon were forced down to river level, on a broad gravel bar. A few steps took us to Uncle Karl's Camp, where my friends Bernie & Harriett Denton spent their summers, as children, from about 1935 to 1945.

We clambered up to the cabin site, and then beyond, into a brushy, poison-oak-infested flat. Gradually we worked farther east, and came in sight of the same ditch we had followed earlier. We climbed to the ditch and followed it, and were surprised to see that someone, within the past week it seemed, had been working on this old ditch/trail. Heaven forbid that it has anything to do with the Blasted Trail. This ditch is a perfect match for Supervisor Bloomfield's bizarre and horrible notion of a trail right up the North Fork.

We were aiming for a certain cliff of limestone crossed by the ditch, where a small bench had been blasted out long ago, to support a wooden flume. However, to get there some awkward spots must be passed, with steep drops, and we had two dogs with us. So we turned around just short of our goal, and started back out.

I intended to take the High East Trail but had trouble finding it. When I did find it, it was too overgrown to follow, anyway. It's been a matter of ten years, perhaps, since I used the High East Trail in that part of Green Valley.

At any rate, the brush gradually forced us down into mining pits where we picked up the Low East Trail, and we retraced our steps up and out of the beautiful canyon, as the sun set, watching the shadows change, and the moon so close to the full, and for the last ten or twenty minutes of the climb out, the moonlight was stronger than the ebbing twilight, and our moon-shadows flickered along beside us.

A sprawling Canyon Live Oak
(Quercus chrysolepis)
Click to enlarge
We especially enjoyed the many huge old Canyon Live Oaks we saw, in Ginseng Ravine, near High White Rock, and along the ditch as it approached the cliffs at the east end of Green Valley.

It was a very very lovely day in Green Valley.

Russell Towle

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